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How to Combat Doubt – Four Ways to Strengthen Your Faith

September 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

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How to Combat Doubt – Four Ways to Strengthen Your Faith

The Lord (Week 12 of 23)

What immeasurable assurance it would be to catch his eye and feel his power surge through us, to know with every cell of our being who he is? Why isn’t this granted us? We must know. — The Lord (Part 4, Chapter VI, Paragraph 12)

Isn’t this the dream of each and every one of us? To KNOW? That is, to know by sight and by touch? To hear His voice and to respond in absolute terms? Not merely to rely on faith, but to feel His love burning within us?  To be willing to give our lives for Him, no matter the cost?

This longing is a gift. It is the breath of the Holy Spirit pressing upon our souls, compelling a deep desire for complete union with God, The Father.  But when we begin to doubt, desperation replaces longing and we can find ourselves drowning in an ocean of despair, grasping for something – anything – just to keep afloat. In those moments we risk putting our souls in grave danger.

Why do we doubt? What is it that causes our faith to wane in these all-important moments when temptation looms before us? There are three sources of doubt that seem to be particularly encouraged and promoted in our culture. Yes, we can combat them, but first we must recognize the dangers they present:

  1. The World – The world is always ready to snatch from us any shred of certainty we have. With the increased antipathy toward moral truth, the disdain for Christianity and the rising sun of “science” as the supreme icon of secularism, believers are poked and prodded everywhere they turn. Faith has suffered great losses in this generation as a result. Even more, Satan – the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4) – has found a way to keep God out-of-sight and out-of-mind, 24-hours-a-day, through incessant noise and entertainment – two obstacles which serve to greatly stifle our relationship with our Savior. Silence is a necessity which we so rarely seek. About silence, Archbishop Fulton Sheen said,

    “Silence is not a privation of stillness, nor a muteness, nor an emptiness; it is a communion by which one attains truths above creation and action.”– Life is Worth Living

  2. Self-Will – Every one of my children has developed what is referred to as “selective” hearing. Perhaps you’ve experienced this. When I politely ask that someone fold the laundry or dust the living room, it is rare that anyone answers me the first time. That said, if I were to whisper that we were going out for ice cream, kids would come running from every direction. Clearly, they have their own priorities. Self-Will works a little like that. The moments that we fail to harken to God’s voice, we are like children who pretend not to hear a mother’s call. We know He is there, but we are determined that our way is the best way and we drown Him out with our own desires. If we do this long enough, we risk no longer hearing Him at all. Over time, the more power we allow our Self, the weaker our connection with our Father in Heaven. The only true way to peace is to Unite our will to God’s holy will: to release Self and to cling to Him. In Christ, we can do all things (Phil 4:13). In Him, we can achieve our greatest potential, and enjoy unsurpassed joy. St. Ignatius of Loyola said about the releasing ourselves to God:

    “Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His Grace to mold them accordingly.”

  3. Fear – When we begin to feel the tentacles of fear wrapping themselves around us, we tend to view God as though from a great distance through a clouded lens. The greater the fear, the more cloudy that lens becomes, and the more alone we feel. This is why Saint John Paul II so often repeated the words of Sacred Scripture: “Be not afraid” (Matt 14:27, 17:7, 28:10; Mark 5:36, 6:50; Luke 12:4; John 6:20; Acts 18:9). Irrational fear can become a crippling cross, hurling us into the depths of despair. Sadly, it is often linked to the first two sources of doubt – the world and the self. We are afraid of the unknown. And we are afraid of perceived threats in the world. We desire control. But living under a cloud of fear and uncertainty is the opposite of what we are called to do, which is Trust.

“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” Proverbs 29:25

So how to we combat these threats? There are four particularly effective ways to strengthen our faith:

  1. Frequent Reception of the Sacraments – Our Lord has given us many gifts. But sometimes we fail to recognize their true value. As Catholics, we tend to go through the motions of our faith. The Sacraments become one more demand in our lives, something to cross off our list of “duties.” Oh, how foolish are we! The Sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us…” (CCC #1131). The Sacraments fill us with divine life! Provided we approach them with the correct disposition, the Sacraments help to unite us to Christ through His Mystical Body, the Church!
  2. Adoration – When I became a Catholic over 20 years ago, I found adoration unbelieveably boring. I would go periodically at whatever retreat I was on, counting the minutes until it was over. If that sounds like you, don’t give up!! If your heart is open to the Holy Spirit and you keep at it, your can rest assured that your commitment will be rewarded. Eventually something will click.  It did for me. At this point in my life, I long to kneel before the Blessed Sacrament. My kids and I often talk about faith, and I tell them honestly that adoration is the reason that I KNOW there is a God. I have come to KNOW Him through all those seemingly worthless hours I spent kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament. All the Bible studies and prayers no doubt have strengthened my resolve, but a commitment to adoration over time have helped me to develop an intimate knowledge of Him. And I cherish that relationship.
  3. Spiritual Reading – How do we learn to appreciate the magnificent gifts we’ve been given in the sacraments? How do we begin to believe in the source and summit of our Faith, which is the Eucharist? How do we find role models for our walk in faith? How do we learn to develop a rule of life or to grow in virtue? How do we combat the lies of the world? Spiritual Reading.


    “Give some time, if it is only half an hour in every day, to devotional reading, which is necessary to the well ordering of the mind as the hand of the gardener is to prevent weeds destroying your favorite flowers.” 
    — St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

  4. Prayer – Each of these solutions is intricately woven with the others. Prayer is a part of the Mass; it is a key component of adoration, and it is critical to any effort to engage in spiritual reading. But it is also a disposition to which we are called in every moment of life. Saint Paul advised us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians  5:17).  It is through a committed prayer life that we begin to recognize the voice of God in our lives.Prayer is the best weapon we have; it is a key that opens God’s heart. You must speak to Jesus, not only with your lips, but also with your heart; actually, on certain occasions, you should speak with only your heart. — St. Padre Pio

The truth is that believers do KNOW that God exists. We know from the deepest recesses of our hearts where we reflect in solitude and prayer. We know when we kneel before the Blessed Sacrament and peace overwhelms us, as warm and solid as a mother’s arms.  From the depths of a spiritual reading book to the lives of the saints, we are inspired in our faith and made stronger in our resolve. Yes, it remains for us to find the silence, to deny our will, and to trust in our Lord. But if we avoid the pitfalls found in the world, in our Selves and in the abyss of fear and we persist in the Sacraments, adoration, spiritual reading and prayer, we can come to feel his power surge through us, to know with every cell of our being who he is. 

 

Reading Assignment:

Part 4: Ch. IX-XII

Discussion Questions:

1. Can you think of any additional sources of doubt or means of combating them that I didn't include in the above lists? If so, please feel free to add them and explain their significance.

2. Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!

 

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the SpiritualDirection.com book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at pelicansbreast.com

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  • Kim Palmer-Burton

    I always love your reflections, Vicki, thank you!! God bless, Kim

  • DianeVa

    Beautiful reflection Vicki! I had to share on FB! Such strength and beauty surrounds us when we surrender to the Lord!

  • Ann Marie

    This is an excellent reflection. I will try to keep these ideas in mind as I make my way through the days ahead. Thank you for your commitment and sharing.

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